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WOMAN'S  LIFE                    139
rest is unimportant compared with their position in the home, in which they live and move and have their being.
In the home the woman rules. No modern man can still believe with Shakespeare that "Frailty, thy name is woman!" Shakespeare disproved this himself with his Cleopatra, and with King Lear's daughters. Close observation of Chinese life seems to disprove the prevalent notion of woman's dependence. The Chinese Empress Dowager ruled the nation, whether Emperor Hsienfeng was living or not. There are many Empress Dowagers in China still, politically or in common households. The home is the throne from which she makes appointments for mayors or decides the professions of her grandsons.
The more one knows Chinese life, the more one realizes that the so-called suppression of women is an Occidental criticism that somehow is not borne out by a closer knowledge of Chinese life. That phrase certainly cannot apply to the Chinese mother and supreme arbiter of the household. Anyone who doubts this should read the Red Chamber Dream, a monument of Chinese home life. Study the position of the grandmother Chiamu, the relationship between Fengchieh and her husband, or that of any other couple (that of the father Chia Cheng and his wife is perhaps most normal and typical) and see whether it is the man or the woman who rules in the family. Some Western women readers might envy the position of the old grandmother, who was the most honoured person in the whole household, who was treated with decency and respect, and to whose chamber the daughters-in-law repaired almost every morning to pay their respects and decide the most important family affairs. What if Chiamu had a pair of bound feet and was secluded? The doorkeepers and men servants had to use their feet more than she. Or study the character of Madame Water, the mother of the Confucian hero in Tehsao Paoyen, who was well educated and a model of Confucian wisdom, and who was undoubtedly the highest character in the whole novel. One word from her could bring her son the prime minister to his knees, and she watched over the welfare of the big family with infinite wisdom as a mother hen guards over her chicken-yard. She ruled with a wise and benign rulership, and all the daughters-in-law were her willing slaves. The character is